Peanut Allergy Precautions
Peanut Allergy Attacks in the News
A schoolboy with a nut allergy suffered two heart attacks after a teacher apparently handed him a chocolate with a whole hazelnut inside it. The seven-year-old had a massive allergic reaction and had to be rushed to the hospital where he was hooked up to a ventilator to help him breathe. His family said staff at the school had been aware of the boy’s allergy since he started there three years ago. It appears the youngster was handed the treat by a substitute teacher but his mother said there was a board in class with pictures of which children were allergic to what. Read more…
Peanut Allergy Statistics
Peanut allergies are severe, and the number of people afflicted continues to grow. Consider the impact the following statistics might have on your organization:
- Over 3 million people in the United States (approximately 1% of the population) are allergic to peanuts
- Less than 21% of children allergic to peanuts will outgrow it
- Peanut allergy is the most common cause of food-related death
- From 1997 to 2002 the prevalence of peanut allergies doubled
- Anaphylaxis occurs in 20% of allergic reactions to peanuts
Peanut Allergy Symptoms
Symptoms range from mild to life threatening. Recognizing and reacting quickly to an allergic reaction can save lives. Symptoms of peanut allergic reactions include:
- Skin irritation including hives, eczema, redness, and swelling
- Itching and tingling around the mouth and throat
- Digestive issues such as nausea, vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea
- Tightness in chest
- Shortness of breath
- Runny or congested nose
- Anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock
Anaphylaxis is the most severe symptom and can be fatal if untreated. Anaphylaxis can begin quickly after exposure and the symptoms will progress rapidly. The symptoms will appear as mentioned above in combination with low blood pressure, extreme difficulty breathing, and respiratory blockage.
The most extreme form of anaphylaxis is anaphylactic shock, which requires immediate emergency medical assistance. The symptoms of anaphylactic shock are constricted airways, difficulty breathing to the point of passing out, skin, lips, and nail beds may become blue, and blood pressure drops rapidly. If untreated anaphylactic shock can be fatal in just 10 minutes.
Establish Peanut Free Zones
Preventing exposure to peanuts is the easiest way to protect your members and guests from dangerous peanut allergy symptoms. All community-based and youth-focused organizations, regardless of whether or not a member has alerted you to an allergy, should be “Peanut Free Zones”. In a “Peanut Free Zone” all employees, volunteers, and members are informed of the dangers of peanut allergies so they understand why they are not allowed in any form.
The following activities and locations should be Peanut Free Zones at all community-based and youth-focused organizations:
- Youth sports camps and games: Make sure half-time snacks are 100% peanut-free.
- Bake sale fundraisers: When possible, avoid homemade baked goods as peanut products can easily find their way into homemade foods.
- Snack and coffee areas: Many organizations make light snacks and beverages available to members in the morning. These items should all be peanut-free.
- Temporary child drop-off: Many fitness centers and community organization provide temporary child drop-off services. In general, no food (and especially not food with peanuts) should be permitted.
Peanut Allergy Precautions for Child Care Providers
Organizations that provide licensed childcare services need to take extra steps in protecting the well-being of the child in their care. Parents should be encouraged to equip their children with medical ID bracelets detailing their child’s allergies. Also, a part of the registration process for all new members should include a section asking for food allergies and these should be kept on file and be routinely updated. If a child has a diagnosed peanut allergy make sure they have given you all appropriate medications including antihistamines and injectable epinephrine.
Treating Peanut Allergies
There are three methods for treating allergic reactions to peanuts.
- Antihistamines: These drugs, such as Benadryl, can be administered to someone exposed to peanuts and can be beneficial in treating the symptoms of a mild reaction. Skin irritation caused by peanuts can be effectively treated with antihistamines. After administering antihistamines, if the symptoms do not improve or progress further medical treatment should be given.
- Epinephrine: Most individuals with known peanut allergies will be instructed by their doctor to have an EpiPen on them at all times. Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, is the only known treatment for a severe reaction and works by constricting blood vessels, reducing swelling, and expands airways.
- Emergency Responders: If a severe reaction occurs and an EpiPen or similar device is administered, immediately call 911 and seek medical attention.